NOT GUILTY of annoying the airport by complaining for 4 years about Gatwick aircraft noise

An elderly lady, Ann Jones, was recently arrested, at the instigation of Gatwick Airport, for lodging too many complaints with the airport noise complaints line. She was charged with the criminal offence of using a telephone to cause annoyance or anxiety – although she only spoke to an airport answerphone set up to receive noise complaints.  She was taken to court but found not guilty.  GACC said it was a disgrace the case had ever been brought, wasting public money.  Ann Jones had adopted the tactic of ringing the airport answerphone each time she heard a plane.  Although unusual, the court decided that this was not illegal.  As Ann said:  “What is the point of having a complaints service if one can’t use it to complain?”
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16.2.2011 (GACC)

An elderly lady was recently arrested, at the instigation of Gatwick Airport,
for lodging too many complaints with the airport noise complaints line. She was
charged with the criminal offence of using a telephone to cause annoyance or anxiety
– although she only spoke to an airport answerphone set up to receive noise complaints.

Ann Jones of East Grinstead has been found NOT GUILTY.    As Ann told the court:
“It was not me annoying the airport:  it was their aircraft which were annoying
me.”

GACC chairman Brendon Sewill commented:  “It is a disgrace that this case was
ever brought.  It has wasted a great deal of police time, court time and public
money, and has added to the suffering of an elderly lady.

Ann Jones had adopted the tactic of ringing the airport answerphone each time
she heard a plane.  Although unusual, the court decided that this was not illegal.
As Ann said:  “What is the point of having a complaints service if one can’t use
it to complain?”

The court heard that each of her calls was prompted by a specific aircraft (she
did not call during periods when aircraft were routed elsewhere) and often drew
attention to the fact that she had been woken by aircraft as early as 5.30 am.

“Many of our members are frustrated” Brendon Sewill told the court “by only getting
an answerphone, never a real person.”  The court also heard that the airport staff
were under instructions not to discuss Mrs Jones’ complaints with her nor to make
any response, and that  Mrs Jones last had a response from the airport in 2006
and was naturally frustrated and angered by the airport’s refusal to respond.

“We hope that Gatwick Airport will now find better ways of handling complaints
from people distressed by aircraft noise,” said Brendon Sewill.  “Misuse of the
legal system to intimidate complainants is unacceptable..”

Ann Jones was charged under Section 127 (2) of the Telecommunications Act 2003
which states that:

‘A person is guilty of an offence if, for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience
or needless anxiety to another, he—

(a) sends by means of a public electronic communications network, a message that
he knows to be false,

(b) causes such a message to be sent; or

(c) persistently makes use of a public electronic communications network.’

She got in touch with GACC who turned to the Environmental Law Foundation.  They
put her in touch with a top London firm of solicitors, Bindmans LLP.   She was
represented by Ben Silverstone, barrister, and by Laura Higgs, solicitor.

Ann Jones is in poor health (aggravated by aircraft noise).  She has asked that
all press or TV enquiries should be handled by GACC.  Please respect her privacy.

For further information please contact Brendon Sewill, GACC, 01293 863369 or 01293 862373

Note.  Airlines have been exempt since 1920 from legal action for the nuisance
caused by noise.

www.gacc.org.uk

Complaining to Gatwick airport about noise:

 

Gatwick Airport’s complaints page http://www.gatwickairport.com/noise/complaints/  where you can log a complaint about a specific flight.
The Gatwick airport website http://www.gatwickairport.com/noise1/contact/ says:

Contact us:  Flight Evaluation Unit

If you want to know more about noise from planes or the airport, or have a specific
complaint, then contact our Flight Evaluation Unit (FEU).

The FEU provides information to the public and responds to any comments you might
have. They monitor the noise levels and track-keeping of all departing aircraft
and answer complaints. They also give information about flight paths, for example
to prospective home-buyers, and provide statistics to the airport’s independent
Consultative Committee, which is made up of local councillors, airlines, passenger
and pressure groups.

You can call the FEU on Freephone number 0800 393 070. Alternatively you can
write to the address below.

Email: noise.line@gatwickairport.com

Telephone: Freephone 0800 393 070

Gatwick Airport Ltd

Flight Evaluation Unit

Gatwick Airport

West Sussex

RH6 0NP

 

Ann Jones:  “What is the point of having a complaints service if one can’t use it to complain?”


see also

Pensioner cleared of harassing Gatwick after airport ignored calls for four years

19.2.2011   (Telegraph)
Gatwick Airport dragged a “vulnerable” pensioner to court under harassment laws
to try to stop her complaining about noisy planes flying over her home

Ann Jones, 67, who lives in East Grinstead, three miles from the West Sussex
airport, was arrested after ringing an automated complaints phone line hundreds
of times.

But she insisted she only kept calling because nobody got back to her for four
years.

She was prosecuted for causing annoyance by means of a communications network,
but this week Mid Sussex Magistrates cleared her after the airport was unable
to prove it had responded to any of her calls for four years.

The court heard Mrs Jones rang every time she believed an aircraft had strayed
from its designated flight path, often when she had been woken by the first morning
flights at 5.30am.

She told the magistrates they were destroying her life, causing headaches, depression
and sleepless nights.

She said: “Aircraft noise is my worst enemy. It was not me annoying the airport,
it was their aircraft which were annoying me.

“What is the point of having a complaints service if one canâ t use it to complain?”

Gatwick Airport officials claimed they had written to her telling her they would
not respond to her frequent messages, urging her to correspond by letter instead.

However she claimed she had not received a single reply in four years and Gatwick
representatives could not provide evidence to prove they had ever sent a letter.

Ben Silverstone, defending, told the court Mrs Jones was a “vulnerable” pensioner
who admitted to using “colourful and expressive” language in her messages as her
frustration mounted.

After the case was thrown out on Tuesday, Brendon Sewill, chairman of the Gatwick
Area Conservation Campaign, called the prosecution a “disgrace”.

He said: “It’s wasted a great deal of police time, court time and public money
and has added to the suffering of an elderly lady.

“She did nothing worse than to use the complaints system provided by the airport
to record messages.

“Many of our members are frustrated by only getting an answerphone, never a real
person.

“We hope that Gatwick Airport will now find better ways of handling complaints
from people distressed by aircraft noise. Misuse of the legal system to intimidate
complainants is unacceptable.”

He said the six months it had taken to clear her name had left Mrs Jones feeling
anxious and ill.

Gatwick claimed staff who listened to the messages found them abusive, threatening
and disturbing.

The court heard managers instructed them not to call her.

A spokeswoman said: “We actively engage with the local community to alleviate
any impact of air and ground noise through public consultations and provide support
for local residents.”

 .

East Grinstead pensioner accused of bombarding Gatwick with complaints

By Sam Satchell

sam.satchell@essnmedia.co.uk
16.2.2011 (This is Sussex)
A PENSIONER who bombarded a complaints hotline with hundreds of “abusive” messages
has had a court case against her thrown out.

Ann Jones, of Southlands, East Grinstead, was accused of misusing the service
by repeatedly moaning about noise from planes flying over her house.

Mrs Jones, 67, was accused of causing annoyance, inconvenience and anxiety through
her conduct, but the case was dismissed at Mid Sussex Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday,
after the prosecution could not provide evidence of a letter allegedly sent in
response to her complaints.

Brendon Sewill, chairman of the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign, which protests
against aircraft noise and pollution, said after the case: “It’s a disgrace for
Gatwick Airport to have brought this prosecution against an elderly lady.

“She did nothing worse than to use the complaints system provided by the airport
to record messages.

“They have caused her six months of extreme worry and ill health.”

Mrs Jones made hundreds of complaints to the airport’s Flight Evaluation Unit
between March 1 and July 31 last year, including 250 in May alone.

Staff who received the messages claimed they were “abusive”, “threatening” and
“disturbing”.

The court heard that on more than one occasion Mrs Jones left a message saying
she hoped “terrorists attack your family”.

Addressing her in court, prosecution lawyer David Holman said: “You seem to be
complaining as much as everybody else put together or more. You complain repetitively.
You make a call, put the phone down and essentially you make the same call again.”

Mrs Jones received a fixed penalty notice and a caution for harassment in 2006,
over calls to the Flight Evaluation Unit.

The court heard staff were informed by management only to reply to written complaints
and, due to Mrs Jones’ previous actions, not to acknowledge her calls.

She claimed planes were regularly straying from their designated flight paths
and “destroying” her life, by causing headaches, depression and sleepless nights.

“Aircraft noise is my worst enemy,” she told the court. Mrs Jones added that
she felt “peeved” and “frustrated” at constantly being ignored. The case was dismissed
when no evidence could be provided of a crucial letter.

Supposedly sent after Mrs Jones’ caution, it told her she should write in with
any future complaints and that nobody would respond to her phone calls.

But the defendant insisted she had never received the letter.

Ben Silverstone, defending, said: “She’s vulnerable and she’s had no response
from Gatwick for four years. She’s calling at times of the day when planes are
moving close to her property.

“She has said in extremely colourful and expressive language the failures of
Gatwick to respond to her complaints. But using a telephone instead of a letter
is not a crime.”

http://www.thisissussex.co.uk/news/Persistent-complainer-cleared-Gatwick-court-case/article-3231408-detail/article.html


Comment from an AirportWatch member:  

Noise complainer charged with annoying airport!  So, according to Gatwick, their
aircraft can annoy as many real human beings as they like, but real human beings
can’t complain to a Gatwick-owned machine?


 

 

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